Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'm gonna crawl

Baby playing on SoftPlayZone playmat (not Oliver!)

We are a bit concerned at the moment that Oliver really doesn't like lying on his front. It may be because he still has some trouble holding his head up properly for long periods of time; it looks a bit wobbly to me anyway. We've ordered a black and white "Baby development soft playmat" (above) from SoftPlayZone to try to encourage him to crawl more.

He's also showing signs of being bored with his current playmat, despite us hanging new toys from it from time to time, so we are probably going to buy a new one of those too.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Natural Born Mothers

As we all marched into the ante-natal classes all those months ago, every one of us was a parent-to-be: indistinguishable from one another. We all heard the same advice, learned the same lessons and no doubt we all imagined pretty much the same idyllic scene as our child was born without complications and we cared for it exactly as we had been told.

Of course, by the time you have experienced first-hand the use of the ventuse cap and had midwives panicing unnecessarily over his first few feeds you realise everyones experience is far from the same.

Equally, the way the new mothers take to their task varies dramatically too. Talking to my sister this weekend she was telling me how terrified she was to bathe her son for the first few weeks and enlisted my Mum's help, only taking complete and unilateral control of the bathing after several weeks. Other mothers Hayley has met at Baby Club have also expressed nervousness at how to deal with their baby in some situations.

Now I'm not saying everything in our household has been one uninterrupted sequence of events expertly handled without any qualms or hesitation (as testified by this blog), but in the three months since Oliver's birth I have come to realise just what a great mother Oliver has in Hayley.

Before you think, "well he would say that wouldn't he", my comments are not just based on the confident and patient way she handles Oliver even in the face of prolonged grizzling. The health visitor commented after about 6 weeks that Oliver's contented sleeping pattern and general well-being were a credit to Hayley. More recently, she relayed to her how one of the other new Mums had said that she wished she could be as confident with her baby as Hayley is with Oliver.

I guess her previous experience as a nanny in the US has stood her in good stead, but what I have really noticed is that she has apprently near endless reserves of patience and energy to play with Oliver and keep him amused and entertained and I have little doubt that this is borne from her love for him. Of course, I love him too, but I can't deny that her love is of a different kind to mine. It's a mother's love for her son and it is as unrestrained and natural to her as I could have imagined. She truly loves spending her days with him.

Her confidence with him is an enormous re-assurance to me when I feel unsure how to deal with him and I have learned so much from her about how to keep him entertained and happy. And how does she find so much energy all the time! I wish I knew.

It's early days and despite making her sound like Supermum, Hayley too has moments of frustration when the going gets really tough. But I have no doubt that Oliver and I are both very, very lucky to have her.

BBC NEWS | Health | Calls to push 'do not cut labour'

BBC NEWS | Health | Calls to push 'do not cut labour'

Some research that suggests less pushing in labour may be benefical.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Love / Hate

Three things I love about being a Dad
1. When he looks into my eyes and laughs. Priceless.
2. Watching him enjoy new things, especially when they are the sorts of things that we take for granted, like sunlight through leaves on the trees.
3. Coming home to my family at the end of the working day.

Three things I hate about being a Dad
1. When he cries and cries and cries and nothing I do seems to console him. He has big tears in his eyes or running down his face and it's heartbraking. I don't know what is wrong with him, what is frustrating, annoying or upsetting him. And I can't communicate with him to find out. He might have a headache or earache but how can I tell!

2. Conflicting advice. At one extreme you have the "baby comes first" approach where it seems that it is impossible to give him too much attention. At the other there is the near boot-camp style regime of "The Contented Baby" book. This lack of clear direction drives me crazy.

3. Every once in a while the lack of one-to-one time with Hayley really gets me down, especially because the cumulative lack of sleep sometimes causes us to be a bit snappy with each other. It's not the end of the world and we always knew it came with the territory, but it is a pet hate nonetheless.

Dummy in, dummy out

Dummies have been a hot topic for the last few days. After reading about "controlled crying" we found that he really is too young to be left to cry for any time. So our strategy now is to stay with him until he seems happy and settled - not necessarily asleep - and to return to him if he cries. This is repeated as necessary until he goes to sleep and stays asleep.

If he gets upset going to bed we now give him his dummy in his cot. He seems to be calmed by this. He has used it to go to sleep in the day for a long time so it makes sense that he might want it at night too. Hopefully he will not start to drop it then wake up and cry for it. He does drop it but seems not to need it once he has gone to sleep.

Talking of dummies, today we saw him do something for the first time. He took his dummy out of his mouth, kept hold of it by his side for a few seconds, then managed to put it back in. It may sound trivial, but it is a level of co-ordination previously not achieved. Next stop, working the microwave.


We have three songs we sing to Oliver at the moment to put him to sleep. Usually it is Hayley who does the singing as she more often than not who puts him to bed. (She has taken the strain much more than me recently, particularly since he started to become a little more tricky to persuade to go to sleep.) Having said that, he does have to listen to his old Dad sing to him too; in the middle of the night when I feed him or on nights when he is so persistent in staying awake that we take it in turns to try to persuade him to enter "the land of nod".

The first lullaby is the one I wrote for him while he was still in the womb. We used to sing it to "Bump" and had to have two versions: one for if the baby was a boy (with his name) and one for if it was a girl (with what would have been her name). It's nice to really be singing it to him now "for real". I say singing, in fact sometimes it is more of a whisper.

The second is a lullaby that my friend Colleen taught me at some point way back in the 1980s. I don't remember why. She had a much younger sister so perhaps she sang it to her. Anyway, I've never forgotten it and we both sing that to him too.

The third lullaby is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This is the first choice if he needs to be calmed down.

I'm not sure they have much effect, but perhaps they are at least part of a routine that he associates with bed-time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bad horsey!

Oliver has started to bash and punch everything in sight. His favourite little sea-horse that hangs in front of him in his bouncy chair used to be out of his reach but he would stare at it for minutes on end. Then he could reach it and would play with it in his hands. Now he punches it so hard it wraps itself around the bar it is attached too and he whines until I unwrap it for him to punch again!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Our first Christmas

Despite last night's travails we rose to find Oliver happy and smiling as usual. After he drank his bottle we all set about opening the pile of presents under the tree. Needless to say, despite showing interest in some of the toys he most enjoyed the wrapping paper and (later) the cheese crackers' box.

Hayley set about cooking a Christmas dinner of epic proportions. We started to eat it at 2.15pm but with Oliver needing a feed in the middle of it we decided to split our meal over several sittings. After a tipple of whisky (1st course!) we had our cream of vegetable soup (2nd course) and then the main course. This was a giant roast dinner - quorn roast for me, chicken for Hayley - with potatoes, sprouts, parsnips, swede, carrots and Yorkshire puddings thrown in for good measure. We then paused to feed Oliver but nibbled on Thornton's chocolates (4th course) before returning to the table for Christmas pudding with brandy cream (5th course) followed by cheese and crackers (6th course) and finally coffee with mints (7th course).

By the end of all that it was 5.45pm, so it is safe to say that this will be our only meal of the day, though I suspect we may find room for a mince pie later (8th course?)!

It has been a great day. Oliver has been happy all day. This evening when he started to show signs of refusing to go to bed we decided to give him his dummy in his cot: something we never normally do. We figured that if he was playing up he'd cry anyway but if he was just unable to soothe himself to sleep he'd settle down. Somewhat to my surprise he did indeed settle down, so maybe he has just become unable to soothe himself to sleep by sucking his hands as he used to.

We've been looking forward to our Christmas Day together - just the three of us - pretty much since we discovered Hayley was pregnant. And I have to say it has met all our hopes and expectations.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve had many of the ingredients we had hoped for in a near picture book scene: presents piled up under the tree (the vast majority for Oliver), carols playing in the background and Oliver playing happily on his playmat. Unfortunately it also then turned out to be Oliver's worst night yet in terms of refusing to go to sleep.

It had all started so well with a trip out for coffee and last minute shopping for Christmas dinner. Oliver stayed awake long enough in his "Santa's Little Helper" outfit (complete with Santa Claus hat) to smile winningly at a series of cooing women who encountered him in Somerfield and Room 311.

In the evening Hayley took him upstairs to feed him but as soon as he had drunk as much milk as he wanted he started to whinge and then cry when put to bed. He was clearly very tired - falling asleep when being fed and rubbing his eyes when put into his cot - but was determined that he didn't want to go to sleep and somehow found reserves of energy to cry as loudly as possible.

As happened earlier this week, he would stop crying when we turned the light on or shone light into the cot. After consoling him for a while and putting him back in his cot a couple of times we decided we had to try letting him cry just a few minutes before returning to him. This was very hard. We took it in turns to come back up and console him until he'd go back into his cot, but it took a couple of attempts before he finally settled.

Perhaps it was because he was so tired after this exertion that he slept until 7.20am this morning (Christmas Day), despite having been fed at 8pm yesterday evening. So when he woke we kept him up rather than let him go back to sleep.

I have to say it is getting a little stressful having to deal with this every night and it is particularly hard as we don't know for sure what the best thing is to do. One thing I am sure of is that things can't go on like this indefinitely. I suspect that we may have to go through some short term pain for long term gain. Certainly we have friends who let their baby cry for 20 minutes (which must have seemed an eternity!) until she went to sleep and after a few nights had no more problems. But there have been a few dissenting voices about doing this at too young an age, even for a just few minutes. My personal feeling is moving towards the conclusion that if Oliver is old enough to manipulate us like this, he is old enough to learn that he can't get away with it. (Well, not always anyway!) Nonetheless, it's hard to see and hear him cry. I'm still hoping we can find some other way to persuade him to go to sleep.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It has definitely started

Once again tonight Oliver has refused to go to bed and is (as I type) crying upstairs with Hayley while I sit down here watching our dinner turn ever more crispy in the oven. If last night is anything to go by there is nothing wrong with him: he just doesn't want to go to bed.

It's not as if he isn't tired either. He was struggling to keep his eyes open earlier: he is such a little devil for fighting sleep!

I hope we can find a way to stop this because we were just starting to think that we might be able to start spending some of our evenings together as a couple again.

Does that sound selfish? It doesn't feel selfish to us. More a case of our preserving the relationship that brought him into the world. We used to love our time together and much as we love Oliver we do miss having that time just for the two of us.

I think (though I'll have to check) that he is getting to an age now where we could try controlled crying techniques: letting him cry a little before rushing to comfort him, then putting him back to bed once he is calm. This is supposed re-assure him but also teach him that he does have to go to bed!

Well, he seems to have gone to sleep for a while now, perhaps because we have left his nightlight on tonight. He doesn't usually need it, but maybe as he becomes more aware he is starting get a little afraid of the dark at times....?

Stop press (10 minutes later): The moment we got our dinner on the table he started to cry. Now Hayley's dinner is going cold while she calms him and puts him back down again. I wonder how many nights this is going to go on for.... and for how long every night.

Stop press (30 minutes later): we managed to eat dinner!

BBC NEWS | Health | Call for universal heart checks

BBC NEWS | Health | Call for universal heart checks

This is the down side of being an "older" Dad. There's no avoiding the fact that the older we get the more prone to ilness we tend to become. Screening such as is suggested here would be reassuring to those of us who'd like to still be around when our offspring have grown up.

Of course, there are steps we can take to help minimise the risks of heart disease. Talking of which, I must jump on my bike now and cycle to work.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A perfect day (with an imperfect end)

Today we visited the Christmas markets in Manchester. These are European-style markets with visiting market traders from various European countries. We enjoyed various flavours of mulled wine, Dutch cheese and Dutch pancakes and roasted chestnuts amongst other delights.

We took the train which was a first for Oliver. We got some Christmas shopping done and all in all had a great afternoon.

Oliver was well-behaved all day, though all the movement and fresh air seemed to send him to sleep for much of the time.

When we got home all went well until we came to give him his last bottle and put him to bed. It took about 20 minutes for him to have his bottle and all looked OK. But when we tried to put him to bed he started to cry. And cry. And cy and cry and cry despite all our attempts to wind him, hug him, comfort him and soothe him. He didn't seem to have a temperature, but when we turned the light on or shone a torch on him he miraculously went quiet. Basically it seems there was nothing wrong with him. He just didn't want to go to bed. Eventually, after nearly two hours of stop-start crying, he went to sleep.

Stop press: He just woke again and cried. Hayley managed to calm him but I get the feeling this may not be the end of our imperfect end to an otherwise perfect day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Colds 'may trigger child cancers'

BBC NEWS | Health | Colds 'may trigger child cancers'

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Am I cute Daddy?"

I love these pictures of Oliver taken in the last few days. He was so happy when we took them. I can make him laugh sometimes when he's in this sort of attentive and happy mood. He opens his mouth wide and sometimes makes a little chuckling sound. It's absolutely priceless: the best feeling in the world to hear it. (Yes I know I am gushing but I make no apology for it: I love him to bits.)

One of these days I'll manage to catch it on video... one of these days.

"What's all this illness business!"

Yesterday evening Oliver was uncharacteristically upset for much of the time. He seemed to have come down with a slight cold. He spent most of the evening lying across my chest either crying or sleeping. Finally he drank his bottle (with little lack of appetite) and then went to sleep.

It must be strange for him to experience illness for the first time. He has had no signs of any ill health before yesterday, the day when he turned 3 months old. I can't help wondering what his little mind makes of it all.

Tonight Hayley is out at her company's Christmas party. ALthough he cried again he wasn't as upset as last night and to my relief he went straight to sleep for me when I put him to bed. (Before that though we watched England draw Sweden, Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago in their 2006 World Cup Finals group.)

I can hear him breathing on the baby monitor as I type. Every time I hear him make a noise I stop mid-senetnce: frozen in a moment of anticipation and semi-terror that he might wake in tears (which he never normally does to be fair). I'm crossing my fingers that he has a restful night.

Dummies 'reduce cot death risk'

Dummies 'reduce cot death risk'

A study in California has indicated that putting a baby to sleep in their cot with a dummy (or "pacifier" in US terms) may reduce the chance of cot death by up to 90%.

However, if you read past that headline it appears that the study was small and its conclusions are not being hailed by experts in the field as conclusive. The results of the study showed the greatest reduction was in families were there was already a high risk, principally where both parents smoke.

Experts in the media today have taken the opportunity to stress he existing advice rather than embrace this new research. The existing advice includes avoiding letting the baby overheat. As I seem to spend half the night awake keeping an eye on the temperature in Oliver's room and given that neither Hayley nor I smoke, we are going to let Oliver continue to sleep without a dummy. We did occasionally give him one but he always dropped it after a while anyway. Right now we are blessed to have a baby who goes to sleep with no trouble most of the time and who seems content. On balance I think I feel safer leaving things as they are, even though this kind of study will probably give me a sleepless night tonight that I otherwise wouldn't have suffered!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The recent death of George Best was another reminder to me of the generation gap that will exist between Oliver and I. Here was a footballer - perhaps the greatest in the world, ever - and yet only a fraction of his talent has been caught on film and it is hard to convey the excitement he caused as a player and the affection in which he was held. Perhaps the images of his funeral, where thousands turned out to bid him farewell, might start to convey it.

And today I was given another reminder of a talent who touched my life and yet wil mean little to Oliver. It is 25 years ago today that John Lennon was murdered in New York. I woke up to the news on the radio and was faced across my room by the cover of Rubber Soul which I had been playing the previous evening. I was 16 years old, a Beatles fan, a music fan, a John Lennon fan. But of course it was more than just his music that endeared him to his fans. Despite a darker side that many ignored (including tales of violence against his first wife Cynthia). it was his desire for peace in the world and his charismatic way of publicising this desire that touched millions. It is a testament to his greatness that 25 years on his death makes the evening news.

Sadly, to Oliver, these will be distant legends.

George Best obituary (BBC)

John Lennon - 25 years on

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

14lbs 13 ozs

Oliver was weighed again today. His weight has shot up, putting him the 75th percentile (from the 50th last time). This is more in line with his height (85th percentile) and his head size (91st percentile).

I'm starting to notice his weight too. A couple of weeks ago I took a day off work because I had hurt my upper back. I don't know quite how I did it but I suspect it was leaning in and picking him up out of his cot: a movement that violates all good lifting practice (not that I have a choice)!

Every time I feed him I notice how heavy he is getting. I can still carry him around on my shoulder but he's getting strong and using only one hand feels less secure than it did. He really dislikes being cradled in my arms nowadays. The only time I get to hold him like that is after feeding him in the night. Any other time he cries and wriggles. It makes me a little sad as it's almost as if he feels he's too big to be cradled like a baby any more and yet he's only three months old!

It's rare that he'll just sit on my knee too. The exception is when he can see the TV which he loves. What he really likes though is to be held up under his arms so he is standing up and then to dance about. This is one of the best ways to make him giggle. I can only do this for about 5 minutes at a time though as he is so heavy. Then when I sit him down again he whinges! Still, it save money on gym membership I guess.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Oliver's first Christmas Tree

We've been out and bought our Christmas tree. It's a real one. I love having a real tree as you get that authentic Christmas smell. Hayley did most of the decorating of it with a little help from. Oliver watched contentedly from his swing as we hung the decorations, lights and tinsel.

BBC NEWS | UK | Boys get pricier Christmas gifts

BBC NEWS | UK | Boys get pricier Christmas gifts

Apparently the Olivers of this world are lavished with more expensive gifts at Christmas than the Olivias. This is partially explained by boys tending to prefer hi-tech toys.